A Historical Perspective of Berom Educational and Cultural Organization (BECO)
Delving into the emergence of BECO cannot be complete without recourse to the past. This historical trajectory will provide a picture of where we are coming from and where we should be tomorrow. The Berom people have always responded to challenging exigencies that threaten our socio political and economic wellbeing right from the pre-colonial days to the post colonial period.
At Fondant of the 20th century, The British colonial author had brought in its wake, Tin and Columbite mining, new value systems, taxation and sundry laws that were alien to Berom people. Several strategies adopted by the British to introduce the “indirect rule” system for smooth administration through the local chiefs proved abortive. Lack of exposure to western education by the traditional rulers made matter worst. The few learned indigenes like Da Patrick Davou Fom (Kuru) was engrossed in stiff anti colonial rule activism alongside Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and had to relocate to the Gold Coast (Ghana) at one time to insulate himself from the colonial master’s hammer in Nigeria.
Few years later, as more Berom people acquired western education, Da Patrick returned home and together with othe compatriots like Da Moses Nyam Rwang (a world war 2 veteran), and othe few western educated elite like Da Lawrence Fom and agricultural extension officer at Riyom, the third of Da Patrick’s siblings John Dokotri (who studied Catholic priesthood and worked as a clerk with the forestry department), Da Rwang Pam who was the Headmaster of Riyom vocational school and few others teamed up and birthed the Berom Progressive Union (BPU) whose primary objective among others was to fight for Berom rights especially as regards increased Land compensation and the rehabilitation of land after it had been mined.
Some Achievements of BPU
B.P.U’s affiliation with Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC was further consummated when the NCNC’s legal team was mandated by ZIK to serve as legal counsel representing the Beroms in their case instituted against the British colonial government when the former was asked to vacate their ancestral homeland to the Tsetse fly infested part of southern Kaduna, infamously known as Sabon Zawan. The Beroms won the case eventually. Secondly, the new political awakening of the Beroms through the activities of the Berom Progressive Union translated into the eventual selection of Da Rwang Pam (its erstwhile Treasurer) as Gbong Gwom Jos in 1947.
Post Colonial Nigeria and The Emergence of BECO
Post colonial Nigeria witnessed a temporary lull in the socio cultural and political activism among the Beroms especially during the military interregnum until political activities of the second republic picked up. The emergence of a vibrant umbrella body like the BPU, according to many political actors from the land contributed immensely in the inability of the Berom to produce 2nd republic Governor for old Plateau State as there was a divided house during the NPP Gubernatorial primaries in 1979 where the candidate earlier endorsed by elders from the eleven districts in person of Da JohnWash Pam surprisingly had another Berom rival to contend with right at the venue of primary election in the person of Da John Chuwang. This confusion and contradictory development led to the victory of Chief Solomon Lar who no doubt benefited from the ensuing imbroglio. After a careful post mortem of this debacle, some prominent Berom elders like DB Zang, Barnabas Dusu, Dung Balang, PD Pwajok and a host of others met and resolved to reenact or reinvent an umbrella body (a BPU hybrid of some sort)that will be all encompassing with emphasis on educational and cultural reawakening. A body who would consolidate on achievements of BPU in line with the present day challenges and/or exigencies. A vestigial concept that would reunite the people though it may not be completely divorced from political interest as politics is part and parcel of every mortal being. In other words, the primary objective was to tickle the educational and cultural trajectory which in itself is a veritable panacea for strengthening our identity and sense of nationalism for overall progress of the land. The new born baby was named BECO, acronym for Berom Educational and Cultural Organization in 1981 and in order to uphold our emphasis on educational component, the person who had the highest educational qualification in the entire land then with a PhD, Dr. Sambo Daju from Riyom was elected as BECO pioneer President. No sooner had the Sambo Daju led EXCO mounted the saddle than they got cracking. It constituted a high powered committee made up of representatives from the districts and headed by Da Yusufu Pwol (pioneerChairman of B/Ladi LGC). Some of the prominent committee members were Da Barnabas Dusu, Da BatureDangyang with Da Yusufu Dawang (erstwhile Chairman B/Ladi LGC) as secretary etc. This important committee was saddled with the responsibility of touring all the Berom districts and interface with the people and the respective district heads in order to study and streamline all the cultural festivals into one.
Secondly, the committee was also mandated to explore the possibility of establishing BECO community Secondary Schools one in each district. As resources were being pulled together by illustrious sons and daughters in this direction, the Solomon Lar government preemptively opened up new government secondary schools in all the Local Government Areas of old Plateau State. GSS Sho and B/Ladi are examples. This move to a great extend hampered the emergence of the stillborn BECO district schools as the new government secondary schools were already absorbing the potential BECO community Sec Sch students. It was as a result of this that BECO shelved the initial plan and opted to build one community secondary school at Kwi village, a location considered as strategically central as far as the entire Beromland is concerned. These two factors were considered as very vital ingredients to consolidate on the unity and progress of the Berom nation.
After accomplishing its assignment, the committee recommended the harmonization of all cultural festivals into one to be known as Nzem Berom. This was necessitated by the fact that since all the festivals, Mandieng, Bunah, Vwana, Nshok, Badu were nomenclatureswith same objectives. This committee worked assiduously in tandem with Da Chollom Jack (a cultural officer) who also did a lot of valuable work on these festivals. No sooner had the Da Yusufu Pwol committee concluded work than the first ever Nzem Berom festival was organized by BECO on the 4th of April 1981, with pomp and pageantry. The spacious Polo field venue was filled to the brim. The maiden festival which had Dr. Alexander Fom as Chairman organizing committee also had the first civilian Governor of old Kano State, Abubakar Rimi as Guest Speaker. As if in agreement with the long awaited Berom fraternity, the dark clouds that hovered over the venue, midway into the festival soon translated into rainfall to the appreciation of many who considered it as showers of blessings from God above and a good omen for the Berom nation.
Some Achievements of BECO
The achievements of BECO are numerous, notable which include;
- The fusion of all the cultural festivals like Vwana, Mandieng, Bunah, Nshok, etc into one that culminated in the birth of Nzem Berom as an annual event. It is very instructive to note that this feat inspired other ethnic nationalities on the Plateau to take a cue by organizing their own annual festivals like Puusdung for Ngas, Puskat for Mwaghavul etc which also promoted unity in their respective domain.
- Formation of district, village and diaspora chapters BECO(Nationally and Internationally)
- Unity in Beromland
- Establishment of BECO Comprehensive High School Kwi
- Convocation of political, educational and economic summits.
- Interface with Berom communities in the USA and UK by BECO leadership.
- Ongoing renovation work at the community Secondary School at Kwi.
- BECO also inadvertently inspired the formation of Berom Ministers’ Forum (BEMFO), BEROM ELDERS COUNCIL (BEC). Prior to the formation of BEC in eaKim 1993, Da Choji Kim from Gassa had organized an elder’s council with members from the districts who had at least attained the age of 80. The group was christened “Bemakuk Re To Chwei”. Its membership was not based on any educational attainment and they sought to provide a nexus between the young and the old. They also sought to play advisory role to not only the Berom organizations but also the traditional institution on matters that bother on culture and traditions of the Berom people. BEC on the other hand was formed by some elderly members of the Berom nation who might have not necessarily reach the age of 80 and cannot be classified as youthful either. Their membership was dominated by mostly retired Civil Servants, Rtd Security Officers, Businessmen and Women, Rtd Clergymen etc. Their primary objective was to play advisory role to BECO and other affiliate bodies.
BEC’s pioneer Chairman was Dalo DB Zang after which Da Victor Pam too over. Next was Rtd Gen. Peter Gyang Sha, then Da Yusuf Dawang. The Berom Elders Council also had its Board of Trustees from all the districts like Da Barnabas Dusu, Da YN Dang, Dalo DB Zang, Ngwo Elizabeth Pam, Da Bature Dangyang, Rtd Rev Deme Bot, Rtd Rev Musa Lenge etc. BEC has played advisory role not to BECO and other affiliate bodies but had spelt out their resolutions on key issues that affect the traditional and other matters that concerns the Socio-Cultural, political and economic life of the Berom nation. For instance, the selection process that led to the emergence of Da Victor Pam as Gbong Gwom Jos as well as Da Jacob Gyang Buba had valuable inputs from BEC. Prior to this, BEC is credited to have mobilized forces to sway the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to favor the elevation of Da Jacob Gyang Buba (who eminently qualified to the exalted position of Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service.
- Quite historical but some names are missing like Da Mallam Choji Lomak who worked closely with late Da Rwang Pam in the establishment of primary educational institutions within Northern Nigeria in the 1940s. Trained by the S.I.M (Sudan Interior Missionaries). First indigenous Sales Clerk at Challenge Bookshop Jos.
- Late Da Dr. Fom Bot, Da Dr. Jonah Madugu and Present Gbong Gwom were among his students, just to mention a few.
- Please read the article and make corrections while slotting these additions.
- You didn’t talk about Sen Luka Gwom and your predecessor.
- Then Worom Venture during the era of Dr. Daju though it did not materialize.